After the long, cold winter we survived this year, it’s only natural that any and all signs of spring would be immediately embraced and, obviously, put on Instagram. I mean, I don’t know about you, but my Instagram feed is pretty much a non-stop parade of magnolia trees in full bloom, startlingly pink cherry blossoms against blue skies, and sunny daffodils poking up out of the earth. But there is one tree which—beautiful though it may be, replete with blossoms like cotton ball puffs clinging to dark limbs stretching up into the sky—can not be fully appreciated by a mere photo, and which must be seen—and smelled—in person to be believed, and beloved. And that tree is the Callery pear tree, otherwise known as the smelliest tree in Brooklyn.
But first, some history on the Callery pear: The third most common street tree in New York City (it falls behind the London plane and the Norway maple), the Callery pear was introduced to America decades ago and quickly spread across its non-native land. In fact, some have called the tree “invasive” and a “scourge,” and even a “bad bad plant.” And we get it, we do! We’ve seen what’s happened to parts of the south that have been all but consumed by kudzu, and kudzu doesn’t have the same distinctive fragrance as does the Callery pear.
And so about that smell. Some have described it as being reminiscent of a dog, others of a dead fish. But because we strive for accuracy here at bkmag dot com, we’re going to call it like we smell it: These trees smell like sperm. Oh, we’re not the first ones to notice that the bleach-y, vaguely funky (or, we guess, spunky) scent—a couple of years ago The Awl noted that “you can tell it’s spring if it smells like semen.” But we felt like we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to guide your attention to these trees now, in the waning days of April, because they will soon shed their beautiful blossoms and the smell of sperm will cease to waft through the spring air. Which is bittersweet really, because it means that summer, with its riper, more fecund (some would say rotting! we won’t) scents will soon permeate your every pore, and we will all lament the days when the most egregious smell was that of the semen tree, which really isn’t all that bad at all; at least, not in our humble, Callery pear-loving opinion.
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